Google offers good customer service in spite of itself

 

If you follow this blog, you know that recently my Google Glass had a serious hardware breakdown and I sought to get it replaced under the 1-year warranty.

Overall, the experience has been a positive one, but it there were times when I questioned whether a massive technology conglomerate like Google will ever figure out how to handle customer service. At this point I’d have to say they are getting close.

Interacting with Glass Guides, as they are called, has been great as they are very friendly when you talk to them. And Google Glass handles their account on Google Plus well. After noting my foil flaw on Google Plus, the Google Glass team jumped into the thread, apologized for the problem and provided me the link I needed to reach their Guides.

glass helpWhen you go to that link, you can opt to “call” Google, which really means you enter your phone number and press the call me button. It then tells you how long it will probably take for a Guide to call you. I called three times during this incident and each time it told me to expect a call back within 1 minute. All three calls actually came in within about 15 seconds, which is impressive.

The first Guide, Michael, was apologetic for my problems, verified my account info and then said he would send me an email with a questionnaire. He wanted to me to reply to the email with answers to questions about what was going on and include three high-quality photos showing the optics pod foil was in fact damaged. He said that would arrive within about 30 minutes. About 2 hours later I still hadn’t received an email. Given how responsive all the Google Glass interactions have been since I first became an Explorer, I worried there was miscommunication about my email address. Plus, once you start missing your Glass, you are anxious to get it replaced.

My follow-up call with a Glass Guide confirmed that they did indeed have my address, that someone was working on the case file, but that this second guide would jump in and push another email out to me right away. About 15 minutes later I received the email, but from the original Glass Guide.

I didn’t mind having to wait a few hours to receive the email; I would have not worried about it at all if the first guy hadn’t told me “30 minutes” when he meant “a few hours.” In customer service, under-promising and over-delivering tends to bring a smile to a client’s face.

The other disconcerting part of my first call was that Michael said he couldn’t guarantee a replacement but that they would look into the matter thoroughly for me. When you have a $1,500 paperweight in your hand — one that’s too light to really hold down much paper — with a known design problem affecting it you immediately become irritated when someone doesn’t say, “Of course we’ll take care of it!” But I realize that perhaps Google does not authorize every frontline person to make such commitments, even though they should be at every company. 

The email questionnaire was simple and straight-forward; it asked about half a dozen questions that all made sense to me in terms of Google Glass needing it for research purposes on a failed unit.

What happened before issue / breakage?

Any solutions come into contact with Glass?

What was the environment like?

How is the device stored or carried?

How is the device charged (only relevant for power issues)?

After sending my answers with three photos attached, I heard back within 4 days that Google was replacing my Glass and I would be notified when it shipped. Also, they had updated their advance replacement process, so they would send me the new unit without putting a hold on my credit card for the value, and provided me with a return shipping label for the busted unit. Hooray!

I made my third call during those four days, being an anxious customer and wanting to know what the resolution to my problem was going to be. The third Glass Guide I talked to verified that the Glass was going to be replaced. He said it unfortunately can take a week or so to get through the process, but that the good news was once it shipped, it would come by overnight air delivery.

Later that day, I received an email telling me my new Glass had shipped, but that it would take 3-5 business days and that they appreciated my patience. Here again, Google stumbled by providing mixed messages. The entire process took less than a week, but now the shipping would be by standard post, apparently, with a 3 to 5 day delivery period. Why did Glass Guides keep telling me different information? The last misstep by Google in this process was that they then shipped the new unit to me via overnight air delivery.

20140702-184840-67720482.jpgI had asked via email for the UPS tracking number so I could be available to sign for it. (I’m not sure why they didn’t just include the number in the first email; it’s better customer service and more efficient for their team than having to deal with another email or phone call from a customer.) I immediately typed it in and was told the package wasn’t in the system yet. Since they said it would take days to arrive, I figured I would just check 24 hours or so later and start tracking it.

Well, imagine my surprise when I received a notice from UPS via email the next morning that they had tried to deliver a package to me but no one was home to sign for it. That was on the Thursday before Independence Day, so they would try to deliver it again on Monday. No way! I contacted UPS, as I have before, and asked them to hold the package at the customer care center after the driver returned and I would pick it up from them Thursday night. That system always works very well and I’m pleased to say it did this time, too.

This worked out well in the end for me, but it could have been an infuriating situation. If you’re going to ship something overnight, don’t tell me it will take 3 to 5 days. This is one of those times where “under-promise and over-deliver” doesn’t work.

All is well that ends well, and I thoroughly enjoyed having Google Glass available for a July 4th party at my nephew’s house. I also have found the new unit to be incredibly responsive and smooth, details of which I’ll cover in a subsequent post.

But back to my earlier question: can a tech behemoth become a customer service powerhouse, as well? The answer is yes, and Google almost has it figured out. At this point, it’s offering good customer service in spite of itself. All the components are there now: friendly representatives (Glass Guides), an efficient replacement process, and a commitment to fast shipping.

Google HQWhat they need to do now is create a better guide for their Guides. It should include what information should be provided to customers about the units, the replacement process and shipping details. I’ve heard from other Explorers that the way to get the best customer service from Google Glass is to always work with the same Guide. But that shouldn’t be necessary, and other than what turned out to be relatively minor hiccups in my case, working with four different Glass Guides seemed to be fine. Consistency is key. Even if you’re telling your customers that something will take longer than they want to hear, if you’re up front and consistent with them no matter who they talk to, they should still be satisfied.

I have heard about research that shows customers with a problem that is resolved satisfactorily are more likely to say positive things about your company than people who have never had a problem. I don’t know where I read that initially, but I can probably find it on Google.

“OK, Glass…”

 

 

 

I miss being a spectacle

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I’ve been living without Google Glass for a week now and I miss it.

Could I continue to live without Glass? Sure, but I also don’t want to and thankfully I won’t have to. The replacement process is well underway and a new unit is en route to my home. I’m told it will arrive in just a few days, so that’s good news. Working with Google on this problem has been a mixture of ups and downs, but mostly a positive experience overall. Once I actually have my new Glass and am up and running correctly again, I’ll do a post about the replacement process.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts on why I miss being a fully equipped Google Glass Explorer:

There’s no easier way to…

I’ve been keeping a list of things I would have normally done on Glass because they are just easier than on my phone, not that it’s all that difficult to begin with. But text messages/Google Hangouts, turn-by-turn navigation, taking pictures, checking the weather, keeping up with flight info while traveling and Google searches are just simpler and faster on Glass. They also are available to me hands-free and heads-up. In the case of messaging and navigation, that is incredibly important while driving. (I don’t text and drive, which means I am pulling over more during my travels to check text messages if my phone starts going off a lot, which has been known to happen.)

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Also, when you own a Jeep Wrangler and like to drive without a top and doors, having a quick way to double-check the weather while driving around through a heads-up device is faster and safer than if you have to use your phone.

I admit I’m a distracted walker…

I find myself looking down a lot more, and that means looking away from my surroundings. That makes me a “distracted walker,” and also means I’m missing out on what’s going on around me. Sure, I could put my phone down and walk somewhere before seeking out information. But so could you, and how many of you really do that? It’s just not realistic anymore. When I have Glass on, I am looking through the information I need, not at it.

I’m really an introvert…

People who meet me in real life often think I’m an outspoken, nutty person who can be loud and is not afraid of interacting with anyone. I also do a lot of presentations, some to large audiences, which freaks some people out but gives me an adrenalin rush. But I’d rather talk to a room full of 100 strangers than talk face-to-face with one or two of them. That’s because even though I’m outgoing and can project well in front of a crowd, I’m really an introvert who is terrible at small talk and will often retreat into my phone or some other device to avoid talking to people.

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Here I am with some MSU Spartan football players. They wanted to meet me because I was wearing Glass.

But if you are a Google Glass Explorer, you cannot be a shrinking violet. People will stare, people will talk about you and people will talk to you. And, honestly, I do sort of miss the interactions driven by Google Glass. If nothing else, it gives me a nearly endless supply of content to feed any small-talk conversation. And it’s a great catalyst for someone you’ve never met to strike up a conversation, which often means they get to learn about Google Glass and I get to learn about some aspects of their life I never knew I would be interested in until I heard about it. Cell phones and social media are, in many ways, making us less social. Google Glass is restoring interaction among people, not just feeding interaction between machines.

I’m finally OK with giving up my privacy…

I am still a very private person in many ways, often fueled by my current job, which opens me up to vulgar personal attacks from time to time. And while many ridiculous tech articles would have you believe that Google Glass is the end of privacy as we know it, they actually have it all backwards. Google Glass isn’t a threat to your privacy unless you are wearing Google Glass.

As I mentioned above, being a Glass Explorer means being willing and able to have conversations with complete strangers. There is no such thing as a personal space barrier when people decide they want to learn about Glass. They are going to talk to you whether you want to or have time to or not. I have to admit, there have been a few outings where I have left Glass at home because I simply didn’t want to be an ambassador that day. Those moments are few and far between, probably because I’m finally OK with being a Google Glass Explorer first and a private person who values his “me time” second.

And that’s not all…

I’m certain there are many more ways not having Glass has impacted my life, but I made a point of only jotting down the things that I kept bumping into regularly. Other Explorers may have a completely different list of what they missed when they had to wait for a Glass replacement, which is a more common occurrence than it should be but I suppose that comes with being a beta tester.

So I am anxiously awaiting my new Glass to arrive. I just hope it doesn’t show up when I’m not home to sign for it!

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Foiled by a design flaw

Google Glass has a fatal design flaw that is resulting in a growing number of complaints and replacements — and now I’ve become the victim, as well.

The end of the optics prism is covered in a silver foil that blocks the light from entering at the end of the prism, which would distort the view at best and make it impossible to see at worst. Trouble happens when the foil bubbles up and sometimes seems to peel away from Glass.

IMG_20140626_133832218 (1)In my case, the foil developed bubbles, which has resulted in a distorted view inside the Glass prism, rendering it almost unusable.

The most unfortunate thing for me — beyond the device becoming a $1,5000 novelty item — is the timing. I was traveling with my family  on vacation and the foil bubbled on the next to last night of our trip. While I had not been using it much due to the nature of our daytime activities, which included a lot of snorkeling, I was planning on breaking out Glass to use during our travels home. I also have another trip planned for this coming week where I was hoping to use Glass and its travel aids.

Upon returning home, I contacted Google Glass to report the issue and determine the next steps. I’m on Day 3 of working with Google to get through the process of getting it replaced. I wasn’t happy that the Glass Guide initially said, “I can’t guarantee you a replacement will be made, but we definitely will look into this.” That’s not what an unhappy customer with a device still under warranty that is suffering from a fatal design flaw wants to hear! Still, I’m reserving judgment until final disposition.

The people involved have been friendly and the process is rather straightforward so far. I had to speak to a Glass Guide about my problem and they emailed me a questionnaire for me to respond to via email and asked for three clear pictures showing the Glass from different angles.  The only glitch in that process so far has been that the Guide told me I’d receive an email from him within 30 minutes. After 2 hours, I called back to make sure they didn’t have my email address wrong. Another Guide opened the file and said she’d take care of getting me an email right away. About 45 minutes later I had an email from the original Guide with my questionnaire.

The delay perturbed me, but mainly because the original Guide was not up front with me about timing. If it’s busy at Glass HQ and it’s going to take a few hours to send me something, then say so. Don’t promise 30 minutes and then leave me hanging.

So, now it’s Saturday and I don’t expect I’ll hear anything until Monday, but perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve heard Glass Explorers who get warranty replacements have mixed results — with some getting a replacement sent first and the defective unit returned afterward, and others having to return the bad unit first, which delays the process. Can I live without Glass for a couple of weeks? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. I’ll cover why in an upcoming blog post.

For now, I’ll just become another person with my head down, looking at my mobile phone instead of my surroundings. It’s less Star Trek, but more distracting.

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BETA can mean Bad Experiences Tactfully Alleviated

exploring-the-amazon-with-google-mapsAs a Google Glass Explorer, you’re not just a pioneer in wearable technology, you have to be a dedicated explorer, someone who is willing to put up with some discomfort as you reach for frontiers others may not visit for years to come.

This was never more clear than the recent kerfuffle that occurred when Google pushed out the first major software update in months and Explorers found themselves with units that ranged from wonky to bricked.

While some people complained it was too much to bear, most Explorers seemed to understand that Google Glass is indeed a beta product — from the hardware to the software to the accessories. Google and its Explorers like me are going to find flaws, problems, and difficulties that must be overcome before this device can go mainstream.

resourceWhen we recently upgraded from the XE 12 to XE 16 software, Google moved the operating system to the KitKat version of Android. This has a lot of potential for Glass and the apps, called Glassware, that developers are creating. In addition, the software update supposedly addresses some of the shortfalls Glass has experienced so far, especially battery life.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go very smoothly. In some cases, it resulted in constant reboots, features disappearing unexpectedly, increased battery drain, units overheating and shutting down and, in the most extreme circumstances, units becoming expensive paperweights.

Google, while at first a little slow on keeping Explorers informed on what was happening, learned its lesson quickly and tried to correct everything. We went from version 16 to 16.1 to 16.11 and finally 16.2 within about 10 days. Google fixed many things with each iteration, but other problems arose. And they aren’t done just yet. My device upgraded to 16.2 and began rebooting itself every few minutes for  a couple of hours. Then, suddenly, it stabilized and it has acted the best it has in weeks. I crossed my fingers and hoped that things are calming down now for a while…and that 16.21 isn’t released to fix problems other people are having and it somehow screws up my Glass instead.

In addition to learning quickly that they needed to talk to their Explorers instead of staying quiet, and then talk with their Explorers in a way that allowed them to listen better, Google made great public relations strides throughout this episode of Glass drama.

From what I’ve heard, they have been quickly replacing the Glass units that were bricked, offering Explorers the chance to change their color if interested, and snag an extra accessory as an apology for the mess and a thank you for being understanding.

Glass reply

I was frustrated at times and had to take a deep breath, reminding myself that I volunteered to pay money to enter a beta program. And I’m certain my problems weren’t as difficult as what many other Explorers were facing. But hopefully everyone’s Glass will be up and running smoothly soon and they can continue exploring something other than Google Plus posts seeking help and advice on how to save their Glass from self-destruction.

Could Google have handled the software rollout and patches better? At the beginning of the problem, yes. But it’s rare to see a company the size of Google adapt so quickly and bring its public relations activities up to speed so rapidly and effectively.

So while there’s no shame in Explorers having some level of frustration for what happened, it seems to me that Google proved “beta” can stand for “Bad Experiences Tactfully Alleviated.”

(Almost ) seeing a volcano with Google Glass

91933-004-DAEEF82AI (almost) got to see a volcano up close yesterday thanks to Google Glass. What I did get to see was a forward-thinking teacher connected to a lot of other forward-thinking teachers who are putting the latest high-tech gear to use as a way to help their students learn and connect with peers around the world.

We take so much technology for granted these days, that I really feel like I need to repeat that last part. “…with their peers around the world.” And it wasn’t just a written connection, or a voice connection — but a video connection. Students from around the world had the opportunity to watch as Brendan Brennan took his class to visit a volcano in Hawaii.

Under the moniker of “Project Open Glassroom,” Brendan found a way to connect students with his class by utilizing computers, portable WiFi and Google Glass in a way that allowed the classrooms to interact, ask questions and see what Brendan and others were seeing, live as it happened.

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A screen shot of Brendan wearing his Google Glass, shot with my Google Glass.

We have added 3 (count ’em) Google Glass feeds via LiveStream for the field trip in addition to the Hangout On Air. One for a student, one for a teacher and one for a volcanologist.

I watched it off and on, streaming it to one of my computer screens while taking care of work on others. While it would have been fun to focus entirely on what Brendan was doing, this was a great type of broadcast for multitasking in the middle of the afternoon.

I’m sure it was a great experience for all the kids involved, even if they didn’t get to see the volcano in a live feed. Obviously, descending toward a volcano in Hawaii with no cellular towers nearby is not conducive to streaming video and the feed was lost before they got to their destination. But it was a valiant effort that really showcased the power of learning that Google is offering classrooms through Glass and Hangouts on Air. (Unfortunately, Google announced last night that the next Glass software update, due out this week, will be removing video calls as a native app. We can still opt to use Livestream, but I hope video calls return soon after Google takes on its challenge to “make them better.” Otherwise, we’ll lose opportunities like this one used by the Houston Zoo and a hospital.)

Besides showcasing the power of technology, this experimental trip to a volcano also was evidence of the power that teachers have to show students how much more there is to becoming educated than what they can see within their schoolroom walls or read about in textbooks.

You can see pictures that some of the classrooms posted at the Google Plus Event page.

Kudos to Brendan and everyone involved in yesterday’s excursion. It was a valiant effort.

Mahalo nui loa!

 

 

Google Glass shortcoming: Not all heads are created equal

SNP_233490CC72CA4D5E0DE3E119EE660F64BB9E_3284798_en_v0My wife, Jessi, and I got together with a group of friends last night to celebrate some accomplishments and a birthday and just have fun hanging out. It’s the first time we’ve gotten together at our house since I became a Google Glass Explorer, so the environment lent itself well to most everyone passing Glass around to try them out.

Overall, the reaction was quite positive, with one of the best comments being, “Those are a lot cooler than I expected.” I think most people would realize that there is a tremendous amount of potential within this new tech if they just gave it a chance.

Because of the various shapes and sizes of the people in our group, it also was a good opportunity to see how Glass’ one-size-fits-most approach is going to work (or not) if Google goes mainstream with them. The Glass team did a good job creating a device that is quite bendable and adjustable. Most anyone can find a way to tweak the nose pads and frame to fit their head. And the hinged feature of the viewscreen means you can adjust it so the entire screen is within your field of vision. I never thought about it, but several of us in our group discovered that we see things at very different angles based on our individual facial structures. I must have the viewscreen tipped in nearly 100 percent, while Jessi tips it out a lot further and another friend of ours had it resting somewhere between.

Of course, the viewscreen is only on the right side, and I’ve had people ask about a left-eyed Glass being available since the vision is negatively affected in their right eye for some reason and they would find Glass easier to use if it could be over their left eye. I don’t know if Google intends on making right-eye and left-eye versions, but I can definitely see that as a major marketing issue at some point.

One of the biggest Google Glass shortcomings I’ve discovered has to do with sound, because not all heads are created equal. We’ve known this to be true for some time, particularly when my wife was trying them out and wanted to learn more about using them. She’s supportive of my being an Explorer, although she has remarked that I talk to myself a lot more than I used to. Unfortunately, because my wife is petite, she is unable to hear things the way she’s supposed to through the Bone Conduction Transducer built into Glass.

When she puts Glass on her head, which is very small, the Bone Conduction Transducer (a.k.a., the speaker) ends up behind her skull. She said that what she hears sounds like it’s coming out of a speaker being held behind her head. Granted, she could use the earbud, but I think one of the cool things about Glass is the ability to listen through the BCT — it is certainly a bonus for someone like me who has reduced hearing in one ear. When I listen to music through Glass, the music is throughout my head and I don’t have the usual sensation of it being louder on the right like I do when using earbuds.

I’m not sure that there’s much of an answer to this unless Google is going to start making multiple sizes of frames to help people adjust to Glass — not just from side to side but from front to back. You can tweak Glass now to fit just about any width of head. But for folks like Jessi, they need to consider a shorter temple on the right. That may be difficult given the size of the battery pack required right now, but hopefully they’re working on a way to make that section of Glass smaller for all of us, and especially the smaller folks who want to enjoy this tech, too.

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The large block behind my ear is the Glass battery and toward the front of that block is the Bone Conduction Transducer, a.k.a. the speaker. It rests comfortably against my skull, allowing me to hear sounds from Glass well without the need for the optional earbud.

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Here, you can see how much further back the battery block sits on Jessi’s head, which is why the BCT isn’t touching her skull and sounds from Glass are very different for her.

A device is worth more than the sum of its apps

hatersI generally don’t give haters my attention, because you can’t help someone who refuses to learn and relies on knee-jerk emotional reactions to things instead of becoming educated and reaching an informed conclusion. But sometimes I’m reminded of a phrase I heard once and latched onto:

“I blog because not only do I have an opinion, I cannot keep it to myself.”

The haters and beraters attacking Google Glass and its users seem to be growing in number and intensity, at least according to the sensationalistic press that can’t wait to breathlessly tear down that which they don’t understand.

But the same media that is looking to report on the problems associated with Glass also tend stick with the notion that Google’s wearable computer is defined by its apps, which isn’t something they do with other tech devices.

Headline after headline will tout that “Google Glass allows wearers to X…” or “Google Glass does Y.” The thing is, often the most sensationalistic headlines are grossly inaccurate because the feature they are reporting on isn’t inherent to Glass but rather is provided by an app created by a third-party developer.

I don’t recall seeing any headlines about iPhones doing something or the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch doing something else based solely on a third-party app that was written by someone not associated with or approved by the manufacturer. galaxy-gear--samsung-smartwatch-review-camera-picture-540x334In fact, they even tend to ignore facts about the devices themselves, such as the Gear having a camera. (That means people can clandestinely shoot pictures while appearing to check the time on their wrist. How many bars and restaurants have you heard about banning Gear?)

Google Glass is a platform with amazing potential. It is exciting to watch the Google Glass community discussions on Google Plus as people chat about what they envision wearable technology like Glass being able to help us do in the future, and sometimes in the very near future. Entrepreneurial app developers are finding new ways to entertain, aid and support Glass owners. Sometimes they hit the mark, sometimes they come up with something silly, and sometimes they create an app that is just pointless. It’s the same thing that happens with Android developers and iOS developers, although that tends to happen less with iOS due to Apple’s near-maniacal control over their universe.

So the next time you see a story lambasting Google and its Glass users for doing something outrageous or creepy, consider whether it’s the device, the user or the app that should be the focus of the article. Two of the apps that have received a lot of over-the-top news coverage include the ones that let users record their sexual encounters and another that provides information to the wearer based on facial recognition. (Having just typed those two descriptions in the same sentence makes me wonder if a new app – Google Beer Goggles – might help avoid some awkward morning-after guessing games with the person you met at the bar last night and suddenly found yourself waking up next to this morning. But I digress.)

Is the sex video app pointless and stupid? Sure. Is it Google Glass’ fault? No, because it’s a third-party app that has to be side-loaded to Glass, something many users don’t even have the knowledge or guts to do with their very expensive new tech device. So, the headlines really should have been, “Black market app for Google Glass lets you record sexual encounters.” Or, regarding the facial recognition app, we should have seen “Google Glass hackers create app to capitalize on facial recognition.”

After all, I don’t recall seeing news alerts about “Motorola phones have a porn problem.” But that’s because the media correctly reported, “Does Twitter’s Vine have a porn problem?”

illegals appAnd I don’t remember seeing headlines that read, “Want to practice your illegal alien smuggling skills? Get an iPhone.” That’s because the media correctly reported it as, “Want to practice your illegal alien smuggling skills? There’s an app for that.” 

Google Glass is a piece of hardware with built-in software and the ability to add new functionality through applications. The services those applications provide can change the use, but they do not change the nature of Glass being nothing more than a machine.

How we as humans adapt and use that machine is important, but it often can be the fault of the user practicing poor judgment or tapping into a third-party app if something goes awry. A device is worth more than the sum of its apps and should not be judged by them, no matter how stellar or stupid they might be.

What if my device can’t hear me now?

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Many of us have joked around with the “Can you hear me now?” line that Verizon Wireless used for its advertising campaign for years. It generally refers to whether someone on the other end of your mobile call can hear you rather than static. As technology has advanced, however, we’ve started talking to our devices almost as much as we talk through them.

Thanks to Siri on Apple devices, Google Now on Android devices and, of course, Google Glass, voice commands are becoming more commonplace.

But what happens if your device can’t hear you?

I discovered this problem recently when I lost my voice while fighting off a bad cold, the flu or the plague — I’m not really sure what hit me. Whatever it was, it silenced me into using gestures and note pads with my family. The biggest discoveries from that experience were that my family is really bad at charades and my handwriting is still the best indicator that I should have been a doctor.

But another discovery was that wild hand gestures and notepads were of no use when communicating with my phone and Glass, so when I was completely without a voice, I was incommunicado with my tech.

For the phones and tablets in my life, that wasn’t really a big deal because I still do 80 percent of my interaction with those via keyboard and screen swipes. But one of Glass’ strengths is its ability to be controlled by voice.

Yes, you can tap and swipe your way through menu commands and activities on the right temple, but you will eventually run into something that requires you to talk to Glass. I’m not sure Google is working on a way to connect Glass with a keyboard for the Explorers who have it now, but it certainly would expand its horizons when they go for the consumer release. I don’t see much point in having a constant keyboard connection because Glass honestly doesn’t need that kind of bulk. Nevertheless, having an option, perhaps with something as rudimentary as a keyboard option available via the My Glass app, might do the trick.

I have been very impressed with the voice recognition programs available now. Siri on my iPhone was the weakest but if I slowed down a little she could understand me a lot better. The Droid Maxx seems to work very well and Glass has been even better. Not everyone has the same results on any of those devices, so your individual experiences may very.

One thing I’ve noticed about Glass is that the device does a great job of hearing me while ignoring others who are speaking around me. I’ve used it to add captions to pictures before sending them from the floor of the noisy North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I’ve also used Glass outside when it’s a little windy and in my Jeep Wrangler where road noise is higher than in most other vehicles. The vast majority of the time, Glass understands my commands and can translate my voice into text accurately. I have noticed that a low battery and a low cellular signal can both decrease the accuracy, but that’s not surprising.

The other good thing for Glass’ functionality is that the microphone works well even if you speak quietly. I’ve actually found that speaking in a normal tone or less works better for it than raising my voice, thinking it would hear me better.

That has been great news these past 10 days or so when my voice was weakening, nonexistent and now, finally, on the mend when I can say, “OK, Glass…Google…elixirs for layrngitis.” 20140304-172449.jpg

Google Glass lets you be in the moment instead of just recording it

As a proud parent, I have often recorded video or shot pictures of my kids doing stuff. There are also many times, however, when I have set the camera down so I could be in the moment instead of just recording it. No matter how easy a camera is to use, whether it’s for still shots or video, the device still creates a barrier between you and the action.

I often see parents at events fiddling with their devices to change settings or adjust focus as they watching their kid’s performance through a viewscreen instead of directly with their own eyes.

That’s why I was excited to give Google Glass a try for recording my daughter’s recent performance at a Solo and Ensemble music competition. Every performance is special, but because she is a senior in high school, I knew this could be her last Solo & Ensemble at this level and I wanted to capture it for posterity. Plus, she chose a very challenging piece without accompaniment, which is unusual for oboe. So, I thought she’d like to have a copy of her performance to watch later, too. But I also really wanted to just enjoy the show.

I had not used Glass to make a serious recording of any real length yet so I knew there was a risk of failure. I was willing to take the risk of not having a decent recording, though, if it meant having the memory of it all clearly in my head.

I’m happy to report that Glass served my purpose extremely well. As my daughter started her performance, I simply pressed a button to start recording. I made a quick couple of taps to extend the video past the 10-second default, and then forgot about the device so I could be immersed in the music.

Because Glass sits right above your line of sight and has a wide-angle lens, it’s very easy to record what you’re looking at without thinking about it. The screen stays on so you can see what you’re recording if you want, but it’s not intrusive. In fact, it wasn’t until we started clapping at the end and I caught my hands moving in the viewscreen that I remembered I still had to tell Glass to stop recording.

Here’s a small highlight of that video:

I did make a couple of observations after watching the replay:

  • You do have to try to remember that you are recording everything, so if you look away, so does your camera. This didn’t happen to me in the less than 3 minutes I was recording, but I could see where it might if you are recording for longer because it’s so easy to forget Glass is your video camera.
  • Because your camera is on your head, you have to remember that you are now the tripod. Every movement can be detected and this has two effects. First, there are times when the recording may not be all that stable if you aren’t able to hold yourself steady. Second, if you move, the camera moves with you, at the same rate. So, while your eyes may adjust rapidly as you look around or move, those who are watching the recording later may not appreciate it, so keep any movements you make slow and subtle.
  • Battery life is still one of Google Glass’ biggest issues. I didn’t have any problems because the video was less than 3 minutes long, but shooting video is definitely a battery hog.
  • The video and audio quality of Glass is quite good. I think the video I shot was certainly on par with anything I got with my iPhone 5S when I would use that, and that phone always gave me nice quality. The lens is a wider angle than most and it’s not adjustable, so you need to keep that in mind and perhaps sit a little closer than you normally would to bring the action in but also keep extraneous activity from the sides out.
  • Having a Google+ account while using Google Glass is fantastic for sharing. Once I was back home and plugged in Glass, it uploaded the video to Google+ via auto backup and then I could easily share it with a few comments to folks in my Family circle.
  • Editing the video is no problem on an Apple product. I was concerned about that since Glass uses mp4 format and earlier versions of iMovie on a Mac have had issues with that format. I’m pleased to report that the latest version of iMovie imported and worked with that Glass video file without a hitch.

In the end, I still think it’s best if parents would just focus on their kids instead of their camera screens, because watching the replay is nothing compared with seeing the event happen live. Make that memory and store it in your own brain first before bothering to store it digitally. But, if it’s a moment you truly want to capture, Google Glass seems to be the least disruptive way to have the best of both worlds.

By the way, my daughter received a 1/Superior rating and is now headed to the State Solo and Ensemble to compete!

Mobile phones are doomed

OK, I admit it. That headline is all about link bait, but what tech journal or blog isn’t based on that most of the time these days? I jest, because I hate that kind of writing.

As a Google Glass Explorer, however, I have to endure my share of “they are doomed” types of blog posts, news articles and comments on social media networks.

The fact that the devices are only available to very early adopters (“Explorers”) should key everyone in that these aren’t yet ready for mainstream use. There is no surprise there, since a lot of new technology goes through the prototype, developer, alpha and beta stages before people can get their hands on it.

One of the biggest problems for Google Glass is that society has become so accustomed to instant gratification that allowing a concept to develop naturally is seen as a failure.

m_40052_1Too often, I see people wanting to compare Google Glass to modern-day mobile phones. But that is a ridiculous notion. When mobile phones first came out, they were bulky, expensive to buy and use, and seen initially as status symbols for elitists. I remember folks not understanding the need to have a phone with you all the time. I was a newspaper reporter in the early 1990s and the paper I worked at had one mobile phone. It was a bag phone that you slung over your shoulder on the way out the door after checking it out from the editor’s desk. These days, reporters are filing stories with audio, pictures and video straight from their mobile phones.

Later, when they became mainstream, mobile phones changed again, turning into computing devices that could allow us to get email on the go — a feature about which I heard people say, “Why would we want that?!” and “Those keyboards are so tiny, no one will ever use them for serious business work.” I do the majority of my work on my mobile phone and tablets these days, so put another chalk mark in the “Wrong!” column for those folks.

My headline on this post, while sensationalistic, does have a point. I believe mobile phones are doomed — in the long run. The landline phone is becoming a dinosaur as more and more people abandon them in their homes and stick with just their mobile phones. Eventually, as wearable computing devices like Glass and smart watches evolve, I suspect they will replace mobile phones. Imagine what will happen to the mobile phone industry when developers find a way to supply cell tower, WiFi and Internet connections directly to a watch or glasses instead of via a mobile phone connection. I can envision an era when people might say, “When I was young, we had to carry phones around in our hands. Kids today don’t know how good they have it.”

I have no idea how long it will take, but it will happen. The naysayers who think Google Glass is useless because it doesn’t have enough apps seem to forget that iPhones and Android phones didn’t have hundreds of thousands of apps available their first year. Those developed over time as smart, creative people found new ways to use mobile phones with an app that many others could not have initially imagined but that they now take for granted.

180px-IPhone_2G_PSD_Mock

iPhone 1

In 2007, Apple Computer launched the iPhone, the company’s first ever smartphone. When the device launched, the device did not provide any support for third-party software: Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs believed that web applications served over the internet could provide adequate functionality required for most users. (Wikipedia)

Haters are going to hate. The uniformed and uninitiated will fear that which they do not understand. But none of that should stop explorers (of all kinds, not just Google Glass Explorers) from boldly advancing. If we never had anyone say “There should be an app for that,” we would not find our mobile phones as powerful or useful as they are today.

I hope those people always keep dreaming.

And to the folks who insist on declaring something useless or doomed because it has not had time to develop properly, please accept that there are some extraordinary things going on with or without your support. But your noise is distracting the people who are going to make a difference in this world and they would really appreciate a little quiet from your corner of the Internet.

Oh yeah, and the Internet was never going to amount to anything either, remember?

800px-First_Web_Server

This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN (where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web). (Wikipedia)